I am teaching a bezels class at Metalwerx next week, so I have been
busy preparing all types of bezels for this class. I can’t imagine
using a bezel material thinner than 28 ga., as the metal is so thin
that while it will bend over the stone easily, it will also wear out
quickly. I would use a bezel this thin or earrings, for example,
since they do not see as much abrasion as a ring bezel, and light
weight is definitely a good thing when making comfortable earrings. I
will also have students make bezels from stock that is heavier than
18ga. These are set using a hammer and punch, and have a very
different look. There is also enough metal around the stone to do a
polished inside edge on the bezel, to give it a perfectly flowing and
finished look. Of course, if you are planning to cut a seat in your
bezel with setting burs (for a faceted stone perhaps), then you
certainly want a bezel with enough material that you will be able to
accomplish this without cutting through the bezel wall.
I also NEVER use fine silver bezel wire. I know that a lot of people
do (and a lot of people use a lot of easy solder, too),but I want the
extra strength that sterling adds to the bezel. If it is that easy to
bend closed, it will be easy to bend open, and stones may come loose
eventually. After 30 years of making jewelry professionally, I have
seen people do amazing things to their jewelry! Incidentally, I also
NEVER use stepped bezels. Just don’t like the way they bend — looks
sloppy to my eye.
A survey of all the artists in our gallery showed that all of the
bezels were at least .5mm thick, and most were closer to 1mm. We do
carry some silver in the gallery, but most of the work is in 18k,
22k, and platinum. I just finished a piece with a bezel wall
thickness of 2mm. You are correct in stating that I wouldn’t need a
wall this thick just to hold the stone-it is an aesthetic choice. But
I am also setting diamonds into the outer wall of the bezel, so the
extra thickness allows me to do this without compromising the
strength of the mounting or having the culets of the diamonds contact
the bezel set stone.
There are also different ways of actually setting the bezel. Todd
Reed’s work, for example, uses a technique that most setters would
find “incorrect.” The top isn’t flat. But he has made it into a style
that is recognizable as his own.
Find out from the instructor what types of bezels will be taught,
and what type of material will be used. Every instructor teaches a
little differently. Personally, I prefer to supply the metal and
stones for my classes, so everyone is working on the same basic
projects. When they return to their own studios, they can go in their
own individual directions, and they will know both HOW and (most
importantly) WHY. If you are curious, I will be happy to send you a
copy of the handout I’ve prepared for my students, outlining the
materials and techniques. Not the same as being in the workshop, but
you’ll see how many different types of bezels can be done.
33 N. Market St.
Frederick, MD 21701